Tsonga People: What to Know About their Culture, Language and Food

The Tsonga people of Africa are rich in culture; their belief systems, norms, values, and marriages are not far removed from what is obtainable in other African tribes. The Tsonga people originated from East and Central Africa before spreading into other parts of the black continent like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and more.

Majorly, the Tsongas are known to speak the Xitsonga language, however, migration and other factors have bred dialectal differences in the language. As a result, we today have the likes of Xirhonga, Xihlanganu, Xin’walungu, Xibila, Xidjonga, and Xihlengwe all from the original Xitsonga.

The Tsonga People and Their Origins

The origin of the Tsonga people is traceable to East and Central Africa and the historical time is between AD 200 and 500. For more than 1,000 years, members of the tribe were migrating in-and-out of South Africa. The Tsonga people’s initial settlement was the coastal plains of the Northern part of Mozambique, but in the early 1300s, they put down roots in the Transvaal Province, including some parts of St Lucia Bay within South Africa

Historical Movement of the Tsonga People

The Tsonga people’s historical movement is dominated by separate migrations. Around the 1350s, the Tembe people settled in the South of Swaziland, and between the latter part of the 1400s and 1650s, the Vanyayi and Van’wanati put down roots in the eastern Limpopo region of South Africa.

A while later, particularly in the 1800s, separate migrations were experienced from parts of Mozambique. Historical records from the first Europeans to touch down on African soil during the 1400s (the Portuguese and the Swiss missionaries who came to South Africa and Mozambique in the 1800s) said Tsonga tribes were encountered very close to the coast of Mozambique by their sailors. The early tribes that were identified include Mpfumo from the Rhonga clan that belongs to the wider Tsonga (Thonga) ethnicity. Also, identified were the Valenga, Vatonga (Nyembana), Vacopi, Vatshwa, and Vandzawu from 1500-1650.

The Demographic Distribution of the Tsonga People

The 2011 population census summed the total number of Tsonga speakers to be 7.3 million in total with Mozambique accounting for 4 million speakers while South Africa had 3.3 million. Zimbabwe was said to be home to roughly 18,000 speakers, and Swaziland had 15,000 speakers of the Tsonga language.

In South Africa, the 2011 census traced 248,000 Tsonga natives to Greater Giyani Local Municipality, 320,000 to Bushbuckridge Local Municipality, 195,000 to Greater Tzaneen Local Municipality, and 80,000 to Ba-Phalaborwa Local Municipality. 170,000 speakers of the Tsonga language were traced to Makhado Local Municipality, Thulamela Local Municipality had 220,000, the City of Tshwane was home to 280,000, 290,000 speakers were found in the City of Johannesburg, and Ekurhuleni housed over 260,000.

Apart from the larger concentrations of the Tsonga people, there are other municipalities in South Africa where a smattering of the tribe is evident – they include:

  • Greater Letaba Local Municipality with 28,000
  • Mbombela Local Municipality with 26,000
  • Nkomazi Local Municipality with 28,500
  • Mogalakwena Local Municipality with 31,400
  • Madibeng Local Municipality with 51,000
  • Moretele Local Municipality with 34,000
  • Rustenburg Local Municipality with 30,000

Breaking down the number of Tsonga people in South Africa according to province, the 2011 census says,

  • Limpopo Province – 1,006,000 people
  • Mpumalanga Province – 415,000 people
  • Gauteng Province – 800,000 people
  • North West Province – 110,000 people.

All in all, the Tsonga people in South Africa constitute over 4.4 percent of its entire population.

The Creation of The Tsonga “Homeland” in Apartheid South Africa

During the apartheid period in South Africa, a Tsonga “homeland” named Gazankulu Bantustan was created. This was carved out of part of the Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga (previously known as the northern Transvaal Province) during the 1960s. However, it was in 1973 that the Tsonga “homeland” was granted self-governing status in the country.

It became a bantustan’s economy that largely depended on gold in addition to a small manufacturing sector. Important to note that the number of people that ever lived there is deemed to be less than half of the Tsonga population of SA (an estimation of 500,000 people). The rest of the natives went in search of greener pastures, joining township residents in the country’s urban centers like Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Tsonga People Speak Xitsonga Language

The language of the Tsonga people is the Xitsonga language which is presently counted among South Africa’s official languages. Historians traced the Xitsonga language as far back as the 1500s when according to them, it was fully developed. The main origin is identified as the Thonga language which served as its predecessor.

The consistent study of the Tsonga language and dialectal features was orchestrated through the work of missionaries between the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. We must acknowledge the work of Henri Junod and his dad that left a lifelong legacy for the people of Tsonga to rediscover their history. However, it was thanks to Paul Berthoud and his friend Ernest Creux that the debut Xitsonga language hymn was discovered around 1878. They achieved this feat by actively engaging the Tsonga people. The Swiss Missionaries lacked understanding of the Xitsonga language but leveraged translations from native speakers.

It was Paul Berthoud who eventually published the first book ever written in the Xitsonga language in 1883 after going through the rigorous process of learning the language. Following this breakthrough, the Tsonga people then settled down to learn how to read as well as write their native language. But we must acknowledge the fact that they were already proficient in speaking their native tongue even before the Swiss missionaries touched down on African soil. Several pieces of evidence point out that primitive occupants in the country already spoke the language for more than 500 years, prior to the coming of Swiss Missionaries.

The Emergence of Dialectal Differences Within The Xitsonga Language

In the early days, the Vatsonga people were likened to a confederacy for people of different groups who settled and assimilated within a certain area and adopted a related language that varied on the basis of geographical location (dialect). Dialectal differences from the Tsonga/Thonga began to emerge earlier or around the 1200s; there were the likes of Xirhonga, Xihlanganu, Xin’walungu, Xibila, Xidjonga, and Xihlengwe. These people were majorly found in parts of South Africa and Southern Mozambique holding large territorial areas and collecting tribute from those who passed through to spare them from attack and secure their passage.

During the Great Zimbabwe establishment, the Tsonga people operated like a confederacy; they supplied regiments to diverse groups in the north of the Transvaal region and equally engaged in trade.

The Name Tsonga is From the Xitsonga Language

A portion of the South African Constitution stipulates that all citizens of the country are given the right to identify with their language or native tongue. This points to the fact that ethnicity or tribal affiliations are mostly identifiable through a common language; thus, isiXhosa is the language that unites the Xhosas, isiZulu unites the Zulus, Tshivenda brings the Vendas together and the Sesotho language unifies the Sothos.

In the same vein, the native speakers of the Xitsonga language or any of its dialects are unified by the native tongue and take their identity from it. Hence, they are constitutionally known as the Tsonga people (Vatsonga). As earlier mentioned, the Tsongas also abound in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland. The South African Tsonga group has affiliations with other related Tsonga people outside the country who go by different tribal names like Tonga, Chopi, Rhonga, and Tswa. However, these people are sometimes classified within the history and heritage of the Tsonga people in South Africa.

Culture and Traditional Beliefs of the Tsonga Tribe

The Tsonga people are big on culture and tradition; to be accorded respect as full-fledged men, young men of Tsonga origin must pass through the initiation school for circumcision known as Matlala (KaMatlala) or Ngoma (e Ngomeni). After the successful completion of this process, boys become men, and subsequently, they are bestowed with the eligibility to perform certain functions within the Tsonga society. There is a limit to what an uncircumcised boy can do in the community.

On the flip side, teenage girls must enroll with the initiation school called Khomba by old Vatsonga women. At the end of the process, initiates are called tikhomba (khomba- singular and tikhomba- plural). Important to note that the girls’ initiation school only admits virgins who are lectured on crucial topics about womanhood. They learn things like the best way to carry themselves as tikhomba; they are also prepared for marriage.

Life and Death In The Tsonga

One major traditional belief of the Tsonga people affirms that human beings have two bodies – the physical (mmiri) and the spiritual, including two additional attributes the ndzuti and the moya. The moya, which is believed to be associated with the spirit, gains access to the human body at birth, and at death; it exists from the body to join the ancestors. The two attributes continue existing into the afterlife, making swikwembu (the spirits of the dead) have general characteristics of humans and also retain their individual characteristics.

The ndzuti, which is believed to be a reflection of a person’s characteristics, is associated with his or her shadow; it will leave the body upon death in the spirit realm. What this means in essence is that the spirit and individual/human characteristics of a person are attached. Within this concept, there is the inherent belief of life after death and also, it upholds that even after their passing, the dead will still retain strong connections with the living. Transiting from the world into the spirit realm is a stage that is of utmost importance to the Tsonga people.

The onus is on the family members of the deceased to perform a befitting welcoming ceremony; this is believed to assist in easing the person’s passage into the spirit world. After a death has been confirmed in a family, members of that particular family will be declared unclean until such a time that they carry out their ritual cleansing ceremonies.

These ceremonies are scheduled for different times of the day within the ensuing months after the death. The family would normally gather at an agreed spot where they will pay homage to their ancestors, offering them food and drinks to show appreciation for all their provision for the living.

For spouses, the approved morning period is one year and during this time, sexual intercourse is highly prohibited. The cattle-kraal is the preferred burial place for the men following which the family slaughters an ox to convey his spirit to the world of the ancestors.

The Tsonga People Maintain Good Relationship With Their Ancestors

Bantu cultures in general, and Shangaan-Tsonga culture, in particular, acknowledge the existence of a supreme being but far more relevant are those who have transited into the afterlife; the ancestors are believed to wield potent power on their descendants. These ancestors, according to the Tsonga, appear in dreams but occasionally, they can manifest as spirits. Each clan of the tribe has sacred places for the burial of ancient chiefs and this is believed to be the abode of the ancestral spirits.

Offerings and prayers are often made to appease the ancestors; this includes items like beer, animal sacrifice, and the likes. On a special occasion, in times of trouble or illnesses, the Sangoma is the one who makes an offering on behalf of the entire community. The Tsongas hold fast to the belief that restless ancestors can cause a lot of trouble, thus, care is taken to appease them. Even the children born into the families will be named after the ancestors; this ensures continuity.

The Tsonga believe in the existence of a strong relationship between tumbuloko (the creation) and a mystical power known as Tilo. Tilo is the superior being, creator of mankind; however, the term is also used to refer to the heavens – the home of this creature.

The Legend of the Tsonga Healers

Tsonga people
n’anga image source

We cannot conclude an article about the culture of the Tsonga people without narrating the fascinating tale of the foremost and greatest traditional healers that ever came out of the tribe. According to legend, a man named Dunga Manzi (Stirring Waters) and a woman known as Nkomo We Lwandle (Cow of the Ocean) were captured by Nzunzu Ndhzhundzhu – a powerful water serpent who submerged them underwater. Instead of drowning, the duo stayed alive in the submarine, breathing like fish. Nzunzu only agreed to release them after their kinsmen offered sacrifices with a cow.

While emerging from the seas, Dunga Manzi and Nkomo We Lwandle crawled out on their knees with an assortment of highly potent herbs that made them the most powerful diviners (n’anga) of the tribe. Hundreds of men and women went under their tutelage to train as diviners.

Ailments and Their Symptoms According to The Tsonga people

When a person begins to experience persistent pains, bouts of aggression or turns out to be infertile, it is said that the person’s body has been possessed by an alien spirit. The affected individual then consults a n’anga who will diagnose the illness naming the possible cause. Sometimes, the divination will show that the ancestors need the person to become a n’anga; in this case, it is the officiating n’anga who will heal and train him in the profession.

During the initiation ceremony of the apprentice diviner, the senior n’anga will re-enact the old legend of the water serpent where the initiates will be submerged underwater and emerge as diviners.

The type of spirits that are likely to possess people are identifiable by their spoken language – the Ngoni (derived from Nguni), the Malopo, and the Ndau. The Ndau spirit can only inhibit descendants of the Gaza Soldiers; history said these soldiers had slain the Ndau people taking their wives as spoils of war. This, according to history, is the reason why the Ndau spirit has continued to perturb their descendants.

The diviner uses his powers in converting the alien spirit, troubling a person from a hostile force to a benevolent one. With this process concluded, the spirit which is now benign bestows the new n’anga with the powers of healing and divination. Once a new diviner receives powers from the spirits, he or she is declared fit and ready for divination.

The Tsongas Heal With All Kinds Of Medicine

The Tsonga made extensive use of medicine in healing the sick. This came in the form of portions that were taken by sick people for healing. These portions are prepared with multiple ingredients, including her very potent herbs. Magical properties were also believed to reside in amulets constructed with organs of animals and plant parts. A diviner prepares an amulet for the sick according to their sickness and the person is meant to always wear it to ward off bad spirits.

Thanks to civilization, the present-day Tsongas now make use of modern health facilities but there are still many who believe in the powers of their n’anga.

The Tsongas Make Beautiful Music

Tsonga people
Tsonga music image source

The Tsongas has received international recognition for their rich musical heritage. According to the history of Xitsonga music, three conventional musical instruments are majorly used in the production process. However, these conventional instruments are further subdivided into three primary instruments including:

  • Stringed Instruments – This is the critical ingredient in the production of Vatsonga music. Some of the vital instruments range from the Xitendxe, Xizambi, the Xipendana, and the Mgangala.
  • Wind Instruments – The wind instruments of the tribe consist of the Nangna, Xitiringo, and the Mhalamhala – an antelope trumpet. With the foremost Tsonga music to be ever recorded dating as far back as the 1920s, the tribe’s music is deemed to be South Africa’s most influential genre as it keeps growing to incorporate newer instruments and production equipment.
  • Percussion Instruments – For their percussion cultural instruments, the Tsongas leverages drums and tambourines in achieving that high-tempo beat. Among the commonly used tambourines is the Tsomane – this is also common among the local healers that make use of it in their ritual healing practices. The drums, on the flip side, range from xigubu and ndzumba which are majorly used during traditional initiation ceremonies. To entertain guests at various festivals and occasions, the Tsonga people use a special drum called ngoma.

The Modern Tsonga Music

The Limpopo River of South Africa is home to Vatsonga people who recently gained considerable attention for their kind of high-tech, lo-fi electronic dance tune – Xitsonga Traditional, otherwise promoted as the Tsonga disco, electro, including Tsonga ndzhumbha.

Artists like General MD Shirinda, Matshwa Bemuda, Fanny Mpfumo, and Thomas Chauke take the credit for pioneering the more traditional/customary dance music of the people of Tsonga. Conversely, the likes of Joe Shirimani, Peta Teanet, Penny Penny, and Benny Mayengani, are the ones popularizing the experimental variety of the Tsonga disco and Tsonga ndzhumbha.

Nozinja, DJ Khwaya, and the Tshetsha Boys, pioneered the more westernized type of Tsonga sound; this includes a lot of infusions such as English words, heavy synthesizer, and sampled vocals. In Europe, it is promoted as Shangaan electro.

Tsonga Dance

Xibelani dance is a Tsonga dance filled with lively movements. Xibelani is from Xitsonga language and the English translation says, “hitting to the rhythm.” During the dance, the women will be attired in the Tsonga traditional clothes – Tinguvu. The Vatsonga traditional clothing uses alterations that boost the body and waist movements of the dancers. Materials for making the Xibelani skirts include grass, wool, strings, and more. The colorful skirts which have a close resemblance to the Caribbean colors are a common trend among most black cultures.

Usually, the Xilbelandi dance style is highly spirited body movements accompanied by the usage of whistles, percussion music, and clapping sounds. While the men play the instruments, the women sing and dance. In recent times, most orchestra bands perform the Xilbelandi dance where the dancers appear in the Xitsonga traditional attire. Other dance styles of the Tsonga people include the Makhwaya, Mchongolo, Xighubu, and Xibelani dances.

Tsonga People Are Known For Their Delicacies

Among the cultural delicacies of the Tsonga people are termites. The tribe takes termites as a major source of protein and the preparation process, according to witnesses, is quite salivating. Apart from the termites, their other delicacies include xigugu, pronounced as “she-goo-goo”; the Vatsonga Shangaan language-speaking Bantu is responsible for popularizing this dish.

It involves crushing dry mealie kernels ingredients to make wholesome and sweet food. The crushing is carried out in a wooden mortar with the aid of a pestle and you only get to stop when the product becomes very fine like maize meal. The xigugu which is another good source of protein is eaten as a snack in between meals. When combined with Tinyawa or Nindluwa, the xigugu becomes a full meal, though additional garnishing will be welcomed. It is said to be very filling. The xigugu can be prepared and stored in the refrigerator or in airtight containers. When stored in the freezer, the xigugu can last for months and can be reheated and eaten at any time.

Another popular meal of the Tsonga people is the Tihove; this is a kind of samp and its preparation is done with dried corn kernels, groundnuts, peanuts, and beans. You can either eat it alone or with meat.

Vuswa bya mavele (mealie pap), Xigwimbi, Matomani (this is mopani worms), and tshopi are also popular among the tribe and Vatsonga people, in particular, enjoy eating the worms. Specifically, they go for the Mopani worms which they fry for a sumptuous indigenous taste.

Tsonga people are also known for brewing their own special alcoholic beverage; this is called Vukanyi. To make the Vukanyi, you will get the marula fruit and squeeze the juice out of it. This will be allowed some time to ferment in a sealed container following which it will be brought out ready for drinking. The Tsonga people would serve the Vukanyi during special occasions.

Tsonga People
image source

Tsonga Names

The Vatsonga names are widespread among the people of SA, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe who share a related Vatsonga culture. Xitsonga names that commonly occur among the cultural group include Tswa, Chopi, Tonga, Rhonga, and many more. These cultural groups are known to share exactly the same history and heritage. Tsonga names come with very deep meanings. Below are examples of names that can be given to a Xitsonga baby

  • Ahlulani- separating good from the bad
  • Akani – to build
  • Drondro – pool of knowledge
  • Dyondzani – be proud
  • Fikani – reach a higher level
  • Hanyani – live long
  • Hlanganani – unite
  • Hlaysiseka – be safe
  • Kotani – accomplish

Tsonga Culture Clothing

Tsonga People
Cultural attires of the Tsonga people

The colorful traditional clothes of the Tsonga people take the credit for inspiring many South Africa urban wedding designs. The attires worn by Tsonga men and women during dance festivals and cultural celebrations have unique meanings in the context of the people’s culture. The traditional attires of the men are made from the hides and skins of different animals while the Xibelani skirts worn by their female folks are usually accompanied by beads. Besides, several other colorful details are added during the dance festivals to complement the shaking dance movements.

The Shangazine magazine article dated 20th April 2018 x-rayed the traditional attires of the Tsonga people whose colorful passion has always been evident in their choice of apparel. This can be seen in their decorations, artifacts, fashion, and many more. The fashion, according to the publication, includes body ornaments, the colorful Xitsonga dresses, wooden legs, and a bright headwrap called “duku.” There are also other bodily adornments such as the necklace beads commonly known as vuhlalu and the hand bracelets called “deha”.

Tsonga Traditional Wedding Dresses

It has been said that a woman donned out in the Vatsonga traditional wedding dress is an accurate depiction of elegance in the African context. Given the colorful choices open to the Tsonga people, brides are spoiled for options as there are a plethora of beautifully themed wedding dresses, including a combination of wonderful color-blocking ideas. For the SA traditional heritage touch, the wedding dresses are majorly fashioned in what is known as the “Duke Back’ design.

However, in recent times, the advent of civilization has brought great changes in the wedding attires of the native Tsonga people. It is not strange to see a man wearing an English suit on his wedding day but the brides will always maintain the bright colors inherent in their heritage.

Tsonga people
Wedding ceremony among the Tsonga people image source

The Concept of Marriage In Tsonga society

Choosing a life partner in the traditional Tsonga society is not something that can be accomplished in a hurry, it is a rigorous process that follows a set of laid down rules which must be followed religiously. Below are some of the rules to adhere to

  • Marriage is not allowed among cousins; this is tagged as incest
  • Tsonga people do not practice child betrothal; marriage is only for grown-ups who have passed through Matlala (KaMatlala) and Khomba (initiation for men and women)
  • Men who are of age can get marriageable girls through recommendations from their fathers.
  • A boy who has an interest in a girl sends her a thorn or a grass ring as an indication of his interest in her
  • If the girl reciprocates the boy’s interest, she will confirm their relationship by sending him similar items.
  • Upon receiving a thorn and grass ring from his love interest, the boy’s father will now come in to send a cow to the girl’s family, sealing the agreement.

At this level, the stage will be set for further negotiations via two sets of intermediaries who are the representatives of both families. In the present day Tsonga, working out the bride price for the girl’s family remains an important concern.

More than being a relationship between a bride and groom, Tsonga marriages work to cement lifelong relationships between families. What’s more, it carries obligations, privileges, and responsibilities that transcend the demise of either spouse.

For instance, a wife who dies without a child or an infertile wife will have one of her relatives bearing children for her husband. On the flip side, the relatives of a deceased husband have the responsibility of providing for his widow. A window that is still within child-bearing age will be married off to one of her late husband’s younger brothers who will then sire children with her on the dead man’s behalf.

The Traditional Wedding Ceremony of the Tsonga People

Despite the level of civilization that Africa has attained over the years, the Tsonga traditional wedding is still practiced by the native speakers of the language. Once a girl departs from her birth home, the elders make a sacrifice as the girl formally leaves her family and ancestral spirits. Following this, the bride is handed over to the family of the groom and this will usher in the formal marriage feast attended by friends and family. The event is usually hosted at the muti ‘homestead’ of the groom and is accompanied by a lot of merriments.

At the end of the traditional wedding ceremony, the bride is declared formerly married as she gets ready to face her new duties as a wife in her husband’s homestead.

Married Life For A New Bride in The Tsonga Society

According to the Tsonga people’s tradition, there are laid down rules of etiquette that a bride must follow upon her arrival to her husband’s home;

  • The bride will first stay with her mother-in-law in the older woman’s multi, assisting in daily chores like cooking.
  • She goes under the tutelage of her mother-in-law who dishes out instructions on their family’s customs.
  • There are rules of behavior that the newly wedded bride must observe towards her father-in-law, including his brothers.
  • Once the new wife gives birth for the first time, she will be granted the right to have her own multi. However, she cannot still cook on her own but will continue cooking in her mother-in-law’s kitchen until such a time that the younger brother of her husband brings home a wife to take her place in their mother-in-law’s cooking area.
  • Once the young mother gets her own home with a cooking area, she will then form a unit within her father-in-law’s multi alongside her husband and child.

The small family unit will continue to stay in the multi of the patriarch of the family until such a time that the husband decides to expand his nuclear family by marrying other wives; this is the only time he will be deemed eligible to establish his own multi.
Usually, the son either chooses to extend his father’s multi to accommodate his own family or build a separate one very close to it; This way, he will not be far from the family homestead.

Career Options For Married Women In the Tsonga Culture

There are several career options open to married Tsonga women. While some engage in pottery, producing utilitarian objects like clay pots traded for foodstuff or sold to tourists, others produce grass mats for sitting or sleeping. There are those who do beautiful beadwork, produce baskets of different types, and strainers for beer making. Women who wish to farm are provided with arable land for cultivation.

Tsonga women are blessed with the skill of extracting salt from salt-saturated soil for onward sale to neighboring ethnic groups and generally, they take care of the home front while the men provide the basic needs of the family.

Clan Forming Among The Tsonga People

Over time, the concept of extending and building new multis will result in lineage or what is referred to as clan forming in the African setting. As the younger generation continues to come of age and add settlements/homesteads, familial relations are strengthened.

Contrary to what is obtainable in other parts of the world, it is the first wife of a Tsonga man that would normally insist that her husband marries more wives. According to the tradition of the Tsonga people, younger wives enhance the status of the first wife in society. Besides, with multiple wives, the workload within the multi will be evenly distributed among the wives and their children. This is a form of division of labor that keeps the ancient homesteads running on oiled wheels

What this means, in essence, is that the nuclear family unit will over time develop into economically functional units of different families where individuals are assigned specific responsibilities and statuses for contributing to the extended family’s common good.

Lobola Negotiations Among the Tsonga People

The Tsonga tribe may have witnessed a lot of modernizations in recent times, but not in lobola negotiations. When it comes to the payment of bride price, things are still done like in the days of their forefathers.

After a man and a woman have agreed to spend the rest of their lives together, the man’s family sends delegates to the girl’s family and the normal lobola negotiation will ensue. The process is a long one and has been listed below;

  • Kundzawuta – Upon arrival, the delegates of the man will pay some amount of money to introduce themselves to the family of the bride.
  • Mathlomanyane weni – The family of the bride will ask the delegates what came for.
  • Kulandza mhani masin’wini – Regardless of where the bride’s mother may be, the family of the girl will pretend that she went to a far destination, and marriage rites cannot be discussed in her absence. The delegates will have to provide the money for her to come from the fields.
  • Kulandza papa timbalelweni – On a similar note, the bride’s family will repeat the same procedure for fetching her father who they will claim went to gather firewood. Another money will exchange hands before the man of the house will now come in to welcome his visitors.
  • Hivonile nhwana – With the father and mother of the bride present, the delegates will now kick-start the process by narrating how they have come for a beautiful flower which they desire to take home and plant. Now, the negotiation has gone down to the basics and the delegates will still pay money for this request.
  • Xivala xa tihomu – The family of the bride will first ask the delegates for a ‘kraal’ where the cows will be kept. Now, the delegates either put a wallet on the floor or spread a blanket. Then they will be told the number of cows to bring.
  • Nkumba wa mani – The delegates will present the mother of the bride with gifts like clothes and shoes.
  • Jazi ra papa – The family of the groom then presents the father of the bride with clothes and shoes, including a suit.
  • Timfuku ta fole – Here, the family of the groom presents the other family with two tins of snuff with R5 coins in them.
  • Xibakele-mvula xifuva – As the negotiation of lobola proceeds, the family of the bride requests something to drink from the groom’s family; this usually comes in the form of alcohol with snuff.
  • Mudzivuriso – At this stage, the delegates present the bride with gifts in a form of wears and shoes.
  • Kukoxa xuma – Now, the stage is set for the payment of the lobola, usually, the money is paid in two installments. The first installment is paid on the negotiation day and another day will be chosen for the payment of the balance. The bride remains in her father’s house until the full lobola is paid but there are families that negotiate to see if they can take the bride home before the full payment.

Once the lobola is completely paid, the two families will then sit and discuss how to move the bride to her new home. Marriage negotiations among the Tsonga people attract some fines which are payable for some offenses, including;

  • Arriving late
  • Getting the bride pregnant before marriage
  • Entering the homestead of the bride without their consent
  • Forgetting to bring the snuff for mamazala (the bride’s mother)
  • Sitting down without permission
Chacha O
Chacha O
Chacha is a writer with a wealth of experience who has contributed across several channels. Her specialty includes celebrity lifestyle including how top movie stars, musicians, and comedians live their lives.


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